Insidious Chapter 2 – 2013
Director James Wan
Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, Ty Simpkins, Barbara Hershey, Steve Coulter, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Danielle Bisutti, Tom Fitzpatrick
Insidious Chapter 2 is one of the rare sequels that makes the original better. The thing about the first chapter is that there were so many questions at the end of the film, no one really knew what had happened or why. We only knew that there was an entity (or a few) that followed Josh Lambert and now his son Dalton. The ending gave the impression that Josh made the ultimate sacrifice to free his son, and in doing so, allowed renewed access to life for the horrible entity that took over his body. This entity kills Elise, the paranormal investigator who knew what was happening and now presumably walks free.
The new story starts off before the last one starts. We see Josh as a little boy, near the time when he started encountering the ghastly entities. We see and hear a younger version of Elise, Josh’s mom and a new guy named Carl. The experiences they encounter are spooky, but leave even more questions. Don’t worry though, we get answers to those questions and a bunch more.
Many of the best parts of the new story recall seemingly unanswered events earlier, whether the second story or the first. Along the way, we discover more seemingly disconnected events that tell the more aware among us to be aware. So much information passes through the scenes, it’s harder to discern what to keep and what to discard. Don’t worry, though. If it’s not covered right away, they will make it clear later.
The story moves from place to place, ratcheting the tension. Lorraine (Hershey) is seeking an answer to what is happening to her son. She calls on the paranormal team of Specs and Tucker (writer Whannell and Sampson), who lead her to Carl. Renai (Byrne) encamped in the midst of the mystery, trying to protect her children and making a further effort to communicate with her increasingly detached husband. Unlike the first story, Josh is physically there much of the time. Something off, that she can sense, but lacks the conviction to do anything about. Her boy Dalton is still able to communicate with other dimensions, and he makes good use of it at some point.
In their research, Lorraine, Carl, Specs and Tucker discover the connection to the past for young Josh. The revelations dovetail nicely with other events. It’s easy to appreciate the amount of imagination piecing together the parts of the puzzle. Storylines that would have flailed on their own add up to something more in the hands of Whannell and Wan. The scare tactics are nothing new, usually someone walking past the camera out of the protagonist’s view or someone in another dimension noticing another protagonist out of the blue.
When these methods are combined with the developing plot, the effect is somewhat mesmerizing. The characters are nicely moved forward in the plot, too, giving the viewer more to be invested in. As a sequel, this is more developed than most, with little wasted opportunity.
Carl, played with a remarkable frailty by Coulter, is a damaged and sensitive middle-aged man. His is the rare character portrayal in a scary film. He is filled with fear but is brave. I appreciated his vantage point more than anything else in the film. He moves the story forward, even with our fears on his back.
If you haven’t jumped in yet, this would be a fine place to start. The ending is a pretty good jump off point for a new story. It’s unclear whether they can successfully weave another story into the mix here, but I would like to see them try.
(**** out of *****)